Friday: All Night Jazz Celebrates Trumpet Legend Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove. Photo: NPR, courtesy of the artist.

Tonight on All Night Jazz we celebrate the music of a 21st century jazz icon and “young lion”, Roy Hargrove, who was born on this date, October 16, 1969 in Waco, Texas. WUSF’s Jackson Harpe has more:

Hargrove began playing trumpet when he was nine years old. He progressed rapidly and enrolled in the prestigious Booker T. Washington School for the Visual and Performing Arts in Dallas when he was 16.

Hargrove’s talent caught the attention of Wynton Marsalis when he visited the school to conduct a masterclass.

Marsalis invited the teenager to sit in with his band at Ft. Worth’s Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center that same week, even offering to drive him to the venue when Hargrove explained that he did not have transportation available.

That performance kick-started Hargrove’s career.

Hargrove returned to Ft. Worth’s often to perform with other great touring jazz artists like Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie.

He built a reputation for his playing that eventually grabbed the interest of Paul Ackett, the director of the North Sea Jazz Festival, who booked Hargrove for the festival.

It led to a three-month tour in Europe that same year.

Hargrove attended the Berklee College of Music in the late 80’s, then transferred to The New School in New York after one year.

Hargrove recorded his debut album in 1990, called “Diamond in The Rough,” which received widespread praise.

Critic Scott Yanow wrote, “Hargrove’s debut as a leader found him occasionally recalling Freddie Hubbard but already sounding fairly original in the hard bop genre.”


Roy Hargrove’s debut album “Diamond in the Rough,” was critically acclaimed.


Hargrove’s momentum did not let up, he released a few more albums before his debut with the Verve label on the 1994 album, “With The Tenors Of Our Time,” which featured Hargrove alongside tenor saxophone greats like Branford Marsalis, Joe Henderson, Joshua Redman, and others.

In 1997, Hargrove won his first of two Grammy awards for his Latin big band album, “Habana,” which won for best Latin jazz performance.

He won for a second time in 2002 for his collaboration with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker, “Directions In Music: Live at Massey Hall,” which won best jazz instrumental album.

He eventually garnered a total of six nominations.

Hargrove had been consistently praised for crafting his own playing style while still maintaining the musical language of traditional bebop.

This earned Hargrove, and a few other musicians of his generation, like Wynton Marsalis, the title of “Young Lion.”.

Hargrove put together a project called “The RH Factor” which combined jazz with R&B and hip-hop, and released “Hard Groove,” in 2003 under the Verve label. Two more “RH” albums followed, “Strength” and “Distractions.”

Hargrove led a few more recordings after that, including “Earfood”, which featured the track “Strausborg/St. Denis,” a tune that became quite popular.


Roy Hargrove’s album “Habana,” earned the trumpeter his first of two Grammy awards.


Hargrove recorded several more albums with other leading artists over the course of his career and was featured as a guest artist for other projects as well. His recording of “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat,” from the album, “Disney Jazz Volume 1,” is regularly featured here on All Night Jazz.

Hargrove had a consistently successful career, between his long list of albums that he recorded and his constant tour dates.

He frequently struggled with drug abuse over the years, but even that did not keep him from his craft.

Tragically, the jazz community lost Hargrove to cardiac arrest in November of 2018. He was only 49.

His passing had an especially large impact on his long-time friend, Wynton Marsalis, who wrote on his blog, “He played with an unusual and infectious combination of fire, honesty and sweet innocence… I am encouraged by the life and legacy that Roy left. He meant it”.

For Hargrove, his passion for the music came easy.

In 2012, he told, “You have to love this thing man. You have to love it and breathe it. It’s your morning coffee. It’s your food. That’s why you become an artist.”

Watch: Nate Najar and Daniela Soledade talk with WUSF’s Mike Cornette!